Fighting Exploitation and Forced Labor with Not For Sale

By October 19, 2017Blog

In the United States, we are often so far removed from the hands that labor over the products we purchase. In most instances, we have forgotten to ask where things come from and we have forgotten to care. This is not only true for individual consumers, but businesses as well.

Decisions that happen in the executive branch of companies rarely include the consideration of the laborers who are affected by those very decisions. Because of this, a horrific negative externality is happening at a widespread scale—the forced labor and exploitation of human beings.

Forced Labor and Exploitation

forced labor exploitation not for sale

Approximately 45.8 million people today are living in a slave-like existence. That is a population larger than the entire country of Canada. The problem of forced labor and exploitation is present in every single country including in our own back yard in the United States of America.

Additionally, companies that practice employment slavery and exploitation are gaining gigantic profits. In fact, these profits total to more than $150 billion—that’s more than JP Morgan Chase, Microsoft, Apple, Exxon Mobil, and Google combined.

How Not For Sale Fights Human Trafficking

forced labor exploitation not for sale

The fight against this overwhelming, horrifying human rights violation is the sole mission at Not For Sale. The Not For Sale website states, “We believe all people should live freely and with dignity. We believe mothers in Amsterdam shouldn’t be forced to sell their bodies to earn money to feed their children. We believe children in Thailand shouldn’t be tricked to work in karaoke bars to entertain foreign travelers. We believe the indigenous tribes in the Amazon shouldn’t be forced to destroy their rainforests or mine their own lands for someone else’s gain. We believe you shouldn’t need to weigh every single decision about what you eat or what you wear against your own values and respect for other humans. We believe there’s a better way to live together on this planet. We believe no one is for sale.”

Not For Sale was founded in 2001 by David Batstone and Mark Wexler. David Batstone had discovered that one of his favorite restaurants, an Indian restaurant, had been the center of a local human trafficking ring in the San Francisco Bay Area. 550 Indian girls had been brought from their homeland to Berkeley to work in this restaurant, but many ended up being forced into the illegal sex trade.

In an video featuring both Batstone and Wexler, Wexler explains: “I know for Dave that was a seed that never went away to a point that he felt he needed to use all of his skills as an investor, as an entrepreneur, or as a journalist to attack this crime in a fundamentally different way. This discovery that a place that you could go to regularly to eat could be a place where the people who were serving you were actually slaves. I mean, yeah, that’s tough to shake”.

At this point Batstone set out on a journey to do something about the exploitation and slave-like conditions of millions of people throughout the world. Wexler soon joined him. Their mission is to stop these practices before they actually happen by creating a different path for young children within the most affected communities.

Their core statements include:

  1. Success is more than numbers
  2. To lead, we prove it ourselves
  3. Everything we do must be built to grow
  4. Never exploit the exploited
  5. No one is rubbish, No one is for sale
  6. Everyone can become better
  7. We go further together
  8. Forced labor is a tool we must replace
  9. There’s always ways to get better

After starting with a children’s home in Thailand, Not For Sale now works with those at risk of exploitation in Thailand, the Netherlands, Romania, Peru and the United States. It has collaborated with its sister organization, Just Business, in order to further develop social enterprises that provide both survivors and individuals in at-risk communities with economic opportunity, education, and safe havens.

The Strategy Behind Not For Sale

The main strategy of Not For Sale is broken down into three main components: social intervention, research and development, and scalable ventures.

On the Not For Sale website, social intervention is described as: “We partner with local experts, community leaders, and business people to understand the root causes of slavery in a region. We provide food, shelter, education, and healthcare to people affected by modern slavery.” In the Netherlands, for example, Not For Sale offers professional culinary training, basic computer skills, and job-readiness training to those who have survived human trafficking. And in Romania, Not For Sale has built a children’s home that prevents up to 100 children from being recruited and trafficked.

The website for Not For Sale described their efforts towards research and development as the following: “We investigate the local economy. We ask, “Why are people here susceptible to slavery? What could we do to create economy for them?” One research conducted by Not For Sale in 2013 identified the most vulnerable person for exploitation and forced labor. They found that 2 out of 3 victims were female, 3 out of 4 victims were offered work, 3 out of 5 victims were sold into trafficking by someone they knew, 2 out of 3 victims were trafficked into a different country, and 3 out of 4 victims were sexually exploited.

The third prong of their strategy, scalable ventures, was described on the Not For Sale website: “We partner with entrepreneurs who have a vision to build an economic engine for the project. These businesses feed revenue back into the project, so that we can give them jobs, stable income, and fund more social intervention.” The ventures that Not For Sale is involved with include REBBL, Dignita, St. Clare, Not For Sale Ale, and Z Shoes. Not For Sale Ale started as a side project at the bioprocess business Thurne Teknik. The CEO, Ulf Stenerhag, wanted to incorporate a way of “doing good” into the daily lives of his employees. However, after the employees rallied fully behind the project, the company partnered with a brewery in Sweden and created an actually beer that has increasing demand in Sweden and beyond. 100% of Not For Sale Ale’s profits are donated to Not For Sale’s work in Romania.

With this three-prong strategy, Not For Sale is taking an active, effective approach to ending the human rights tragedy of worker exploitation and forced labor. If you want to donate, visit

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